Accepted Paper:

Alternative centres: Jewish heritage policies in Morocco  


Maria Cardeira da Silva (CRIA NOVA FCSH)

Paper short abstract:

Following current Jewish heritage tours in Morocco I will try to show how Moroccan heritage policies try to incorporate new and diversified trends of pilgrimage within the Jewish diaspora, creating alternative centres «out there».

Paper long abstract:

A great many Jews from several European countries, Canada, Israel, the USA and South America, go to Morocco. Moroccan-born Jews often come for the hillulot - the annual festivals around tombs of tsaddiqim (saints). Tour operators take advantage of the longing for this 'centre out there' (Turner 1973) and promote heritage tours that mix hagiographic experiences with tourist performances. Positions are divided as to whether their ritualistic performances diverge or sustain the idea of Israel as a State and Aliyah as a pilgrimage. Jews from other provenances seem to be looking for an unsullied Judaism, unconcerned about the tainted history of dissentions and conflicts. The Moroccan state, which includes in its highest echelon representatives of the Jewish, offers special protection to pilgrims and tourists. The State finances research into 'Jewish culture and its artistic, literary and scientific heritage' and sponsors festivals where the encounter between religions is celebrated. Although we could include all these within the framework global system of patrimonialisation, and we know how processes of diasporisation act as the most powerful triggers of memory and nostalgia, we cannot but note the imbalance between the quantities of renovation projects associated with Judaism and the recent decline in the Jewish population. Morocco is a roots tourism destiny or place of pilgrimage for different Jewish groups and where different historical origins and different classes intermingle. The attitude of the Moroccan government seems to favour this position by exploring the rhetoric of co-existence, inspired in part by the legendary Andalusian convivenza.

Panel Reli002
The heritagization of religious and spiritual practices: the effects of grassroots and top-down policies (SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group)